With the dust settling after the Nov. 6 elections, one group is looking like the biggest losers of all — Christian conservatives.
Writing for Religious News Service, David Gibson says that “the religious right encountered defeat at almost every turn” and lists several reasons why, including Obama's victory, the passing of same-sex marriage in four states, the failure of an effort in Florida to restrict abortion and the legalization of marijuana in two out of three states where it was on the ballot.
But now religious conservatives face another battle — defending their agenda against those who see it as too exclusive of voters who are younger, female, and religious but not evangelical. Although some 80% of evangelicals voted for Romney, the electorate is getting younger and changing demographics mean Latinos are a major force at the polls. Gibson says, “both those groups are turned off by anything that smacks of righteous moralizing.”
Q: Can the religious right recover from this defeat? And does it risk being marginalized if the Republicans decide to adopt a more inclusive agenda?
One should never count anyone out, especially in politics. After Barry Goldwater lost big in 1964, some said the Republican Party was doomed. But four years later, Richard Nixon was elected and reelected, and in 1980 Ronald Reagan won big and he too was reelected.
When Democrat George McGovern got slaughtered in 1972, there may have been some thought that the Democrats were doomed. But 20 years later, Bill Clinton was elected and then reelected, and Barack Obama just won a second term. So one needs to be careful before writing somebody's obituary.
However, the so-called religious right has sort of been on the down slope ever since George W. Bush was in the White House. In fact, that Bush presidency was probably the high-water mark of the religious right's influence. But can it recover? Maybe. I don't want to offend some of my fellow clergy, but if the religious right cannot recover its influence, would that really be so bad?
Admittedly, I am a religious progressive, and I'm not afraid of the term “liberal.” But I believe in evolution and in a woman's right to choose. In fact, I believe quite strongly that America is about choice. Gambling and smoking may be bad for society, but if you want to engage in those activities, you should have the choice to so engage. Abortion may be the worst kind of birth control imaginable, but the choice should be yours, not the government's.
I just preached a Thanksgiving sermon in which I quoted our first President George Washington. In a letter to the Touro synagogue of Newport, R.I., in 1790,Washington said that “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” While our first president urged us to be thankful to Almighty God, he was also very tolerant.
To me, the religious right and all that it stands for is the picture of intolerance. Its members are well-meaning, but so too were the members of the class of 1491, who, according to a bumper sticker, thought the earth was flat. Something else Washington said in that letter: “the Government of the United States....gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”. The religious right, in my view, is neither — and it would persecute rather than tolerate.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge
Jesus Christ identified only two basic groups of people: those who follow him and those who choose not to, the “sheep” and the “goats,” according to his own words. I don’t believe the division in our country is essentially “the religious right” as just another political group distinguished from those whose values are un-biblical. We are witnessing an ever-clearer division between those who desire God’s ways and those who desire their own in opposition to him.
I do not fear for the success of God’s people any more than I fear that the sun might not rise tomorrow. God put the sun in the heavens, and he has established his ways as triumphant in all of creation. Continents on the earth turn away from the sun into darkness, and entire cultures turn away from the Lord. But that doesn’t mean God’s “light” for either is defeated.
On Nov. 6 our nation turned further into darkness, and that might make things more difficult for “the religious right” in a political sense. Indeed, even the Republicans presented a compromised stand on abortion. But the sun will rise tomorrow because God tells it to. And God’s people will rise as well. “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” Proverbs 4:18 tells us. “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” says Psalm 1:6. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” 1 John 2:17.
Pastor Jon Barta